Failing Forward

Failure is such an uncomfortable word. I don’t like it. I don’t want to identify with it. But what if accepting failure is just the thing that would propel my next growth spurt?

I have experienced this first hand more times than I can count. I have learned more lessons from failure than I could ever hope to learn from winning.

Failure keeps me hungry. It tells me I haven’t learned it all and I better not quit trying. It keeps me humble. It keeps me coming back for more.

This past weekend I went to a jackpot a couple hours away. I took my four year old gelding who I’ve only been consistently running the last couple months. I’m starting to push him a little more and treat him more like a finished horse.

I don’t expo him unless I feel its absolutely necessary, I warm him up for just a few minutes at the walk before his run, I send him into the first barrel like I would a finished horse. I just mentally tell myself to let it all hang out and don’t safety up like you are riding a colt.

This approach has helped me get over that colt seasoning hump. You know the hump I’m talking about where you stop making excuses for them and just treat them like they know what their job is and trust your training.

I feel like this has helped my gelding mature tremendously and it has helped my own mental game as well. But heres the catch, with that approach I know I will have moments where it all comes apart and looks ridiculous. I know that my horse and I will make mistakes. I know that there will be failure.

More importantly I know that it will reveal any holes in my training or seasoning foundation with my horse.

This is GOOD! If I protected my horse and my ego all the time and never let it all hang out, then I would be doing myself a disservice. I probably wouldn’t find the areas where we need to majorly improve. I probably would just coast through the pattern trying to keep everything too perfect and never let my horse really work.

Last weekend was a prime example. I have only had a chance to run Elvis (my four year old) at a handful of different arenas over the summer. ALL of them have had deep “beach sand” ground conditions. He works really well in that type of ground, but I have to try pretty hard to get him around the barrels and not let him get bogged down in the deep stuff. In those conditions I’ve had to just throw my hand forward around the barrel and keep his feet moving and he will do the rest.

The ground last weekend was nice ground but totally different than what he has run in lately. It was not deep at all and a little shifty and dry. We totally bombed our pattern on Saturday but he stayed safe and upright and kept his footing around every barrel so I was really proud of him for that.

When I look back at my videos I always count my strides around the barrels. That is one concrete way you can measure your improvement or see where you’ve lost time in a run.  I wasn’t surprised when I counted SEVERAL more strides around every barrel in that run. It was totally no fault of his own, he was just figuring out the ground and I rode him on far too loose of a rein around the barrel. He needed a little more help than I offered.

I was planning on making a run on him there the next day so I made one simple adjustment and shortened my reins even more and reminded myself to keep my hands wider and more slid down the rein to help him.

It worked! We ended up shaving a full second off our time from Saturday and winning the 1d.

I really believe if I hadn’t allowed myself and Elvis room for failure we wouldn’t have learned what we did on Saturday and we definitely wouldn’t have come back stronger the next day.

If I could offer any encouragement to my fellow barrel racers it would be this; don’t resent your moments of failure. Don’t spend any time dwelling on them either. Figure out one or two things you could learn from what happened and move on. Tomorrow is a new day to try again!

Keep in touch with me on Facebook at JE Performance Horses LLC

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